'Mittens Gift' will support agency’s mission to alleviate and eliminate poverty in S.E. Vermont
(Westminster, Vermont; 3/16/2021) Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) announces a generous gift from the Friends of Bernie Sanders, made possible by sales of items bearing ‘the Mittens Meme,’ which raised over $1.8 million. This unique unrestricted donation will help SEVCA both relieve the hardships caused by poverty and attack its causes in Windham and Windsor Counties, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19.
As this year’s mitten season draws to a close, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic drag on, and full economic rebound is still a long way off for many residents. For example, even prior to the ramp-up of COVID a year ago this week, 1 in 12 Vermonters were food insecure, but the pandemic spiked that number to a level not seen since the recession of 2008: since then, 1 in 3 Vermonters have experienced a lack of adequate access to food. And it’s caused similarly deep impacts in many other areas of basic need – health / mental health, employment, housing, energy, and general financial security & well-being, to name a few.
“This amazing Mittens Meme gift is an unprecedented opportunity to address a wide range of needs that have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic,” noted SEVCA’s Executive Director Steve Geller, “and it allows us to collaborate with our clients, service partners, and communities to determine the highest priorities and customize how we use it to produce the most effective impacts. Very few other funds allow that level of flexibility, and even fewer on the scale of this one.”
SEVCA will be receiving $100,000 in “Mittens Money” and is one of the five Vermont Community Action Agencies receiving that amount. Other groups benefitting from the fund include Area Agencies on Aging to fund Meals on Wheels, Feeding Chittenden, Chill Foundation, senior centers in Vermont, and Bi-State Primary Care for dental care improvements. Together, the recipients of these generous contributions reflect Sen. Sanders’s longstanding passion for and commitment to addressing the needs related to poverty, the elderly, youth, and health care.
Community Action Agencies (CAAs) like SEVCA and its four partners in Vermont – BROC, Capstone, CVOEO and NEKCA – are among the over 1,000 nationwide who share the mission of easing the effects of poverty and eliminating its causes for all Americans. “The importance of unrestricted funding like the Mittens Fund to fulfilling that mission cannot be overestimated,” said SEVCA’s Director of Planning & Development Carolyn Sweet. “SEVCA receives millions of dollars in grants every year, but most of them are tightly restricted as to their purpose and what they can or can’t be spent on. This gift enables SEVCA to use it in the way it will do the most good…for immediate relief, long-term recovery, and/or capacity-building to prevent, prepare for, or respond to future impacts of this or future crises, based on all the relevant and significant factors involved.”
SEVCA is currently engaged in a process to determine the most effective uses for this donation in the context of other funding it has received or that may be available to address a number of different needs and issues. According to Geller, their intention is to “optimize its use to best complement all other potential funding so that it does the most good for the most people for the longest possible time. This extraordinary resource deserves no less.”
Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) was established in 1965 as part of the national War on Poverty to address the needs of low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties. In addition to providing the “safety net” for households in financial crisis, its services help them stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take strides toward becoming self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational poverty cycle. These goals are achieved through such programs as VT Everyone Eats, Family Services, Crisis Fuel and Housing Assistance, 3SquaresVT (Food Stamp) Outreach, Head Start, Weatherization, Home Repair, Small Business Support & Assistance, Financial Fitness Education, Matched Savings, Job Readiness Training, Tax Preparation Assistance, Thrift Stores, and Health / Recovery Navigation.
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